love

February Favorite Things

I’m back on the bean.

The truth will set you free, they say, and the truth is tea is just not as good as coffee. I tried. I failed. I’ll drink a bit more Earl Grey tea, but coffee has my heart. I’m trying to limit the vanilla syrup and switch to honey. Again, not as good. But I’m sipping my way towards less sugar and more love for myself when I “slip up”… or sip up. I crack myself up.

Ahh February. Typically the weather is colder, we get more snow, and I’m sad because Christmas and my birthday are over. February means I’m in for the long haul towards Spring. It’s not my favorite month, but here are a few of my favorite things that can make the month more bearable.

  1. Felt Letter Boards

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My friend got me a changeable letter board for my birthday and I am so excited! I am using it for a little fun this month. Send me your favorite beauty quote and I’ll capture it on my board and share it on Instagram. Then I’ll round up all the contributions for a special post at the end of the month. Leave a comment here or send your thoughts on beauty to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. Keep in mind, the phrase has to fit on a felt board.

Other future uses: Cocktail lists for parties. Positive vibes. Dinner Menus. Bible Verses. Love notes to Dylan or to myself.  Show your friends just how quippy you can be. It has retro charm and modern day potential.

2. Zucchini Noodles

Cutting out carbs seems sad. I love pasta. And potatoes. And carbs. Yet, I’m slowly pulling myself up on the Paleo bandwagon and trying to integrate healthier meals into the rotation. This Spiralizer will help. Come over for zoodles or maybe I’ll make you ribbons of butternut squash. The possibilities are endless.

Let this cookbook be our guide.

3.Groundhog Day

The old classic. I like it. It’s a reminder that we have choices in how we live our lives. That we can make changes, break out of routines, keep practicing until we get it right. Perhaps About Time captures these themes better, but one must pay homage to Bill Murray every February 2nd.

4. Air Plants

I kill plants. But Pinterest promises me all these plants need to live is air. They can pull the nutrients they need from the AIR. I just have to soak them in water once a week and their tangly arms and blooming flowers can grace glass bottles and hang from my book shelves with little effort. I got six for my birthday and I’m still placing them around my house. And ps, did you know you can buy PLANTS on Amazon? Of course you can.

5. RxBars

My new favorite protein bar. Again, a Paleo thing. But these protein bars have real ingredients, low sugar, and are tasty! I like the mint chocolate flavor. Dylan prefers peanut butter. I like that I feel full in the morning and there are no mystery ingredients. Throw one in your purse. Stick on in your husband’s work bag. Have a snack. Share the love.

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Mine.

Unofficial titles I’ve had at work over the years. Levity Lady, Head of the Fun Committee, Social Activity Coordinator.

I like spending some of my work hours planning social outings, celebrations, and bringing humor to the office.

Some other words to describe my impulse to want to make people feel happier – encourager, coach, mentor, supervisor, friend, writer.

Whisperer of beautiful things.

As I work and I process and I heal my childhood wounds of the confusion of complex emotions, I realize just how many of my coping mechanisms involve trying to fix other’s happiness levels.  It comes out at work and it comes out in my family and I am wondering if it’s coming out here too.

I wrote this post at the end of 2016 about how hard it can be to encourage others. How challenging it is to look for the light. How lots of people prefer to yank us out of our seats and into the stinky mud on the ground. There is always more mud on the ground.

Because I feel for people, deeply, and I have trouble not dragging my empathetic toes into the circles of others. Because I care. And I want you to see the light. All of the glorious light that exists when we lift our chins.

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A beautiful friend boldly told me to start saying, firmly in my brain, “that is NOT mine.”

That grief, that conflict with your co-worker, that gut wrenching diagnosis. The government shut down, the fight with your mother, that unemployment and dashed dreams. All NOT mine.

It’s a new tool for survival. A safety shield for the ever-feeling heart.

Anne Lamott wisely says,

” there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way, unless you’re waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth, and I so resent it. But it’s an inside job, and we can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. And if it’s someone else’s problem, you probably don’t have the answer, anyway. Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”

This quote got me thinking. Is that what I’m trying to do here? Acting out my need to save others by sharing what’s good. Sure, I hope my words cause epiphanies in your lives and spark you to think about small, simple blessings that dance through your days.

But I’m not sure it works, and that shouldn’t be the point.

The beautiful, beautiful point, is I do this work for me. I look for the beautiful to make me feel sane. And if it works for you too, my gosh, let’s cheers with some bubbles. I don’t want to be toxic, I want to be balm. I don’t want to be controlling, I want to be free.

And looking for the beautiful helps me, me, me, my, MINE to do that. That process of healing, of unhooking from other’s drama, of allowing me to stand on my chair, chin up, arms open and up, tears streaming down my cheeks.

I also read this funny article about writing on Medium today. Poet James Avramenko writes about what he’s learned from writing a poem every day for the last six years. I love this nugget of truth that he shares,

  • The ones you like often get no play, the ones you think suck often explode

My most visited post on this blog is about the tv show Friends. I’ve poured out my heart and talked about grief, and shared bravely about MY own stuff. And the light hearted post about my obsession with Friends is most frequently read. The deep stuff gets glossed over and often ignored. I thought last week’s post was awesome. No comments. Crickets. Doubts. Temptations to press delete.

As an artist, that’s frustrating. But James is right. We don’t get it, we just write. We don’t know what’s going to stick and we can’t anticipate the impact. Maybe there is none.

So for this year, I’m changing my intention for the blog. I don’t want to get my help all over you. I want to help myself. Help myself heal, love this magnificent, magical world, build gratitude, dream bigger, and experience new things. I’m going to write about it.

If you feel it’s beautiful, consider sharing. As James also says, “Once it’s in the world, it’s out of your hands.”

Thanks for joining me.

 

 

Light a Candle

Horrific. The only way to describe what happened in Las Vegas last night.

People will say there are no words.

Wrong.

There are lots of words.

Words of Anger. Of Sadness. Of Loss. Of Grief.

Words of magnitudes.

Yet, we feel helpless. So we say “there are no words.”

Wrong.

There are words of hope. And of comfort. And of light.

Of a saying “hi” to our neighbor, or “Hey, let’s go give blood.”

Or “Here, have a sandwich,” or make a call to a senator to say “How dare you stay silent on gun control again and again.”

These acts CAN NOT be silenced.

Yes. If you feel grief, take time, stay quiet, ponder with loved ones and protect yourself.

But, please, oh please, stop saying there are no words. Try this list if you’re stuck.

Take a moment.

Light a candle instead.

Whisper, sing, shout or wail a prayer.

For the mothers and daughters, sons, and brothers and fathers who are hurting and have lost ones most dear. For the co-workers who won’t have a project mate, the child now parentless, the countless kids across the country afraid to go to school, or the movies, or the football stadium.

Light a candle for all the conversations this incident should spark.

Light a candle for you. A person with words, who can use them for good.

Light a candle for hope and for healing.

Spread the light.

 

I do not want to take away from the heaviness of tragedies aftermath. Yet, I do believe dwelling in good brings peace. Share in the comments a few things you found to be beautiful in the slurry of mixed emotions following today.

Home is Where the Heart Is

Forgive my tardiness. Yesterday seemed to get away from me. It is with great excitement that I post another guest contribution from reader Melody. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on love and responding to the “Where Your Heart is Challenge.”

Here is her response.

Home is where the heart is.  It’s cliche, but it’s so true.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I love Valentine’s Day.  As a little girl Dad always made sure that Mom had roses and a big box of chocolates, while my sister and I were gifted a single red rose and a tiny heart box of chocolates,  It wasn’t the flowers and candy that made me love Valentine’s Day though.  It was the town I grew up in.

Loveland, CO is the Sweetheart City, and it lives up to it’s name. I’ve lived all over the United States and small towns everywhere put up Christmas decor on their streetlights; declaring to the community there is a reason to celebrate. And while that happens in Loveland at Christmas, what truly made it special to me were the February streetlights, happily decked out with giant red hearts. You could pay to have a special Valentine’s message placed on one for all the world to see.   My memories are crowded with images from childhood.  Sitting in the back seat of the car driving down Eisenhower next to Lake Loveland, I would dream of the day I’d see my name on one of those beautiful ruby hearts.
I haven’t lived in Loveland for 18 years now. My parents moved to Oregon 11 years ago.  And every February my heart grows a little bit heavy with the missing of my hometown.  Last March I returned to Loveland for a funeral.  I stayed with family friends and saw lots of friends and I was reminded that there is no place on earth my heart feels more at home than in my beloved sweetheart city.  The friends I have there are extensions of my family, the mountains sing to my soul of freedom and peace, and the streetlights proclaim loudly that love is here and love is good.
With memories and relationships rekindled this has been as year filled with Loveland stories for my friends here in NM and my husband.  And so as this Valentine’s Day approached I was excited to once again try to make my kid’s memories as special as my childhood ones but also filled with wistful dreams of streetlight hearts.  We gave the kids their gifts and cards this morning and faced the usual morning rush to get to school.  I left 15 minutes later than I wanted to but that was ok.  As I rounded a corner a couple blocks from my home I did a double take.  There on the streetlight was a red, hand painted, cardboard heart reading “Moose loves Moosette”  I took a deep breath and choked back the tears.  My Valentine fulfilled my childhood dream.  And it doesn’t matter that I’m not in Loveland this Valentine’s Day.  Home is where the heart is; and today I found that my heart could be home wherever I am because the love I carry from the people and places I have loved is always with me.
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Happy Valentine’s Day from New Mexico!

When Your Heart is in Loveland

My good friend Beth chose to share her response to the “Where Your Heart Is Challengeand I’m so tickled. Thanks for sharing the love!

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“Loveland, Colorado sure knows how to celebrate Valentine’s Day! I moved to Loveland just over a year ago and I’ve enjoyed experiencing all of the unique traditions the city has related to the holiday, including the ubiquitous hearts posted on street signs across town and of course all of the “love-themed” beers on tap at the breweries. But my favorite tradition is sending hand-written Valentines to my family through Loveland’s Valentine re-mailing program. I’ve made it a tradition to personally deliver my letters to the special red mailbox located at the downtown post office branch (appropriately called the “Valentine” branch!) where the letters are stamped with a special message from the Sweetheart City before being mailed.

The part that I find most beautiful about this tradition is the process and the time it requires. As I wrote each Valentine, I took a moment to think about the recipient and to appreciate how much joy and love they give me! Even as I walked over to the post office, my heart was full of love as I took the time to reflect on the various ways these people have shown me so much love over the past year. Life moves so fast and it’s easy to let “love” be just a passing thought or a common phrase that we add to our daily speech. For me, “love” becomes truly special when I slow down to appreciate, reflect on and share in sending the love.”

 

 

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on love, or responding to the “Where Your Heart is Challenge”, send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. Accepting entries until 2.14.17

“Where Your Heart Is”

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. About our need for it, our hesitance towards it, how freeing it can be, and how scary it is to love all at the same time.

About how we say to love our neighbors, love our enemies, love ourselves. Why, oh why, does loving seem to be so challenging when at our core it is what we are designed to experience?

As protesters hold signs with phrases about its power and aisles at Target fill up with pink, chocolate, and candy hearts, our world inundates us with the perplexing notion of what it means to love and be loved.

As I got lost in my own thoughts this week, I kept drifting back to these questions. I spent a few hours searching for quotes or profound statements, phrases, poems that have catchy truths about that little four letter word.

Like the poem read aloud at the end of “10 Things I Hate About You” or the bible verses read at weddings as we commit to love one another for our entire lives.

As I scrolled and scrolled, I stopped on this quote.

“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you´ll find your treasure.”

– The Alchemist, Paulo Cohelo –

And so, in the next ten days leading up to the United States’ most commercialized day of expressed love, I’m asking you to do something.

Help me to understand just how beneficial love is. Why we need it, why we choose it, why we believe in it. Help me to understand how you find your heart treasure.

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I invite you to participate in the “Where Your Heart is Challenge” by completing one of the following tasks and sending me your thoughts. The world needs more love right now, and I’m asking you to help spread it.

Here are your choices:

  1. Write a love letter to your favorite person of choice. Stick it in the mail or deliver it in person.
  2. Write a love poem. It can be about a person, a season of life, the good and beautiful things that enrich you right now.
  3. Make a list of your treasures.  What treasures are dwelling within a space of love that enrich and enhance your life.

At the foundation of this little challenge, I believe time spent on this exercise will make you feel better about your own situation. If you choose to keep this to yourself, honor the time you spend reflecting on love.

I hope, ever so much, that you will want to be brave and share what you have come up with and I can repost it here. Send me a picture of the list, type up a reflection, let me know how you have been inspired to pay it forward and bask in the force that connects all of us.

Email me the details at (52beautifulthings at gmail dot com) of your experience and I will be honored to share your story.

Ten days of spreading the love. I hope you will join me.

xoxo

When Friends Take You Grocery Shopping

Life has brought me into a new season. A five letter word. A season of grief.

Previously, I have experienced loss in several capacities. I’ve said good-bye to my grandfather, and watched my childhood friend say good-bye to her father when he lost his five year battle with cancer three years ago.

Never have I experienced, however, the crippling shock that results from loss on a deeply personal level. When I received the call that my dad had passed unexpectedly, the first thing that came into my mind was the song lyric from Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.” Well, maybe not the first thing. But these words were certainly rolling around in the mess of thoughts and emotions that flooded my brain.

Luhrmann says, “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday.”

For me, it wasn’t a Tuesday. It was a Friday, and it was 3 pm.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last few weeks, talking about death, loss, and grief can make people feel pretty uncertain. I know this is about them, and not about me. However, it doesn’t feel great to watch how your own pain makes others twinge in discomfort, or inspire fear in how they, too, could experience such an event. Grandparents, those we expect to lose. Not your dad, at the age of 58, when he was seemingly healthy the night before.

As the weeks and months move forward without my dad, and I continue to process this change in my life, it is not my intention to make others uncomfortable or to be seeking sympathy.

Rather, I choose to dwell on the fact that stories of shared experience bring me comfort. Over the past few weeks I have had several people share with me that they, too, have lost their parents unexpectedly. Co-workers and high school classmates have shared their hearts and insights as to how they have moved forward to survive without their loved ones. And so I am choosing to share tid-bits of my experience here. Maybe my experience can bring you some comfort or something to relate to in your own journey. I now know that even in the midst of terrible loss, there is beauty to be found.

 

Rewind to two weeks ago. Thursday night. I had planned my meals for the week ahead as my mom and dad sat on my couch. We shared glasses of red wine and caught up on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Jotting down what I needed to get at the grocery store on Saturday brought comfort and a small sense of accomplishment in getting ahead on regular tasks.

IMG_3667This damn grocery list has sat on my kitchen table for the last two weeks because with a flood of funeral obligations, family time, and throat-aching sobs, I did not find the time to make it to the store.

Plus, the outpouring of support from our family and friends allowed our freezers to be full of casserole, lasagna, and breakfast burritos. Chores as mundane as grocery shopping quickly fell to the back burner.

However, as we marked the two week anniversary, it became pretty apparent that grocery shopping was necessary. Yet, the list continued to sit on the table. It can be challenging to return to routine after such a shock. At times, the thought of every day life just feels like too much.

On Friday evening, I had the blessing of two girlfriends coming down to join me for a meal out. After eating and drinking and discussing our lives, we decided to skip on dessert and make brownies at home. We had to stop at the store to get a boxed batch of promised, gooey, deliciousness.

Both of my friends insisted on returning to my house to get my list – the neglected reminder of my last night with my dad. I hesitated and said I could manage by myself, later in the weekend, but they insisted. Pissed, I grabbed my grocery bags and got back in the car, quietly feeling scared of undergoing such a task. My dear, gentle friends followed me around the brightly-lit aisles, put items in my cart, and helped me complete one of my first attempts at returning to normalcy.

Because that’s the thing when you lose a loved one – life continues, trash needs to be taken out, and you return to work, but picking out peanut butter can be a gut wrenching experience. The presence of these two women in a King Soopers on a Friday night was the most beautiful example of ‘showing up’ and letting me be me I have witnessed in my experience with grief.

Thank you to my dear, beautiful friends who have shown up in so many ways over the past few weeks. Thank you for wiping my tears, reminding me of love through candles and journals and phone calls with sobs, for bringing us Easter hams, and sending chocolates from across the world. For the cards, the flowers, the sentiments, and the continued communication of love and support as we move forward. Friends are the most beautiful things.

What are your experiences with grief? How have you moved forward? Do you find sharing your stories is comforting, scary, or even allowed?